‘Dancing with the Stars’ semi-finals end on high -- and expected--- note

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At the end of tonight’s semi-finals round, there were few surprises,leaving Chelsea and Mark at the top of the leaderboard heading into Tuesday’s elimination round. Their final scores: Chelsea Kane, 73; Hines Ward, 60; Kirstie Alley, 54; Ralph Macchio, 48. Unless there’s a huge voter turnout, Macchio is pretty much leaving the competition Tuesday night. Viewers: it’s al up to you.

Of course, how could I let tonight’s show go by without mentioning one of the rudest moments of the night, courtesy of judge Bruno Tonioli who quipped, “Are you wearing extra-large diapers?” to Ralph Macchio, who donned “padded booty” underwear for his salsa (his pro partner Karina Smirnoff urged him to do so during rehearsals to give the dance’s moves more impact). Just plain uncalled for. The audience showed their disdain with an extraordinary amount of booing and moaning.

On to the competition:

It came down to the “Winner Takes All” cha cha round with 15 extra points up for grabs in tonigh’s semi-final round of “Dancing with the Stars.”

This competitive dance system is unprecedented for the show. Two couples compete against each other in an instant cha cha for 3 to 5 minutes. Call it an effort to stave off the frequent complaint with the show’s scoring system, which saw many a very good dancer go home due to “popularity voting” by viewers.

This time out, the judges will determine who wins the cha cha competition — period (no viewer votes for this dance). Not quite sure how this eliminates the “popularity contest” aspect to the show’s VERY subjective voting system, but hey, it’s something different for the show.

First up, Hines vs Ralph: The judges leaned toward Hines overall, ultimately voting Hines and Kym onto the next bracket.

Second heat: Kirstie vs. Chelsea: the judges proclaimed it was hard to pick a winner from the two teams; in the end, they did the expected and went with Chelsea. No surprise there.

So it was on to the faceoff between Hines and Chelsea, who found out their music on the spot and had only a commercial break to figure out their moves. The song? “Just Dance” by Lady Gaga. Too bad hostess Brook Burke had no idea how a coin toss works. Hines was the night’s top scorer and called the toss “tails”.. when it came up “heads” she asked him for his choice to dance first or second.She was soon “corrected.” It could happen to anyone with millions of viewers watching live.

And in the finals of the “winner take all,” with only minutes to prepare, Hines headed out to cha cha to Ga Ga. It was fun, lively and precise and proved he has truly earned his place in the finals. And so it was down to Chelsea and Mark, who delivered yet another perfect performance. In the end, the judges thought so, too, awarding the victory to Chelsea. No real surprise.

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